by CHRISTINE SARKES SASSEVILLE
Looking for a light, campy Victorian supernatural-mystery-farce with hysterical scene-chewing acting, cross-dressing and clever staging? Then, The Mystery of Irma Vep at The Jungle Theater is just the play for you! I love physical humor and this play delivers. With two actors playing all eight characters, they move quickly through the scenes, building in clever staging and movements to allow for unbelievably fast character and costume changes. Director Joel Sass uses his creative team and stage crew very effectively with the set evoking a lush, yet fading English hunting manor, replete with spooky portraits, stuffed animals and secret passages.
Ivey Award-winning actor Bradley Greenwald is excellent in this play and reprises his roles from the first production in 2010 (the play was revamped and brought back by audience demand, according to the press release). At six feet tall, Greenwald portrays the main female character, Lady Enid Hillcrest, with surprisingly mincing delicacy. The sight gags of him in pink ruffles, tiptoeing through the set, are worth the price of admission alone — not to mention the particularly affected, high-brow British pronunciation of certain words (“super-stis-ious” comes to mind). His portrayal of stable master/werewolf, Nicodemus Underwood, is also over-the-top wonderful and the interactions with co-star Stephen Cartmell as housekeeper Jane Twisden (and the beleaguered Lord Edgar Hillcrest) offer opportunities for plenty of naughty bits and double entendres.
The often over-wrought plot involves mysterious deaths, supernatural beings and Egyptian mythology and is mostly beside the point of the play, for my guest and I at least. The real entertainment for us was in watching how the actors moved from one character to another on and off stage. They used dramatic pauses (to the sound of spooky violins and deep cello notes), Baritone horn solos, soap opera stares, set pieces and other plot devices to impressive comical effect.
The Mystery of Irma Vep, By Charles Ludlam. Directed and designed by Joel Sass with Greg Brosofske (composer), Barry Browning (lighting), Sean Healy (sound), Matthew Lefebvre (costumes) and John Novak (properties and stage management). August 29-October 19 at The Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Av. S., Minneapolis. Tickets: $25-43 at the box office: 612-822-7063 or www.Jungletheater.com